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New York City’s mandatory sex ed program draws fire
Credit: Seth Sawyers (CC BY 2.0)
Credit: Seth Sawyers (CC BY 2.0)
By Kevin J. Jones
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.- Updated Aug. 12, 2011 at 9:43 a.m. MDT. Includes words from Meecham about opt-out clause in 11th paragraph.

The City of New York’s new requirement that one semester of sex education be taught in all public middle and high schools continues a “failed experiment” and substitutes parents’ beliefs and values with those of the schools, Catholic leaders said.

“The decision of the City of New York to mandate sex education classes, including teaching grade school children about sex and condom use, is troubling,” Joseph Zwilling, the Archdiocese of New York’s communications director, said Aug. 10.

He said 40 years’ experience has shown it is a “misguided effort” and a “failure” to try to make sexual activity devoid of consequences.

“Rates of teen sexual activity and pregnancies continue to soar, despite condoms being freely given away, including in our public schools,” Zwilling continued.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said that under Mayor Michael Bloomberg “literally tens of millions of condoms have been promiscuously distributed all over the city to anyone who wants them.

“And yet the rate of sexually transmitted diseases continues to skyrocket.”

Previously, public school principals have chosen whether to teach about sex and what to teach about it. On Tuesday the city announced the new mandate. The city recommends its program to schools that do not have one in place.

The recommended curriculum includes package lesson plans titled “HealthSmart” and “Reducing the Risk,” the New York Times reports. They describe abstinence as the best method to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, but they also teach condom use and discuss the appropriate age for sexual activity.

Zwilling said the schools should teach abstinence.

“Abstinence before marriage is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and disease, and recent scholarship has shown that abstinence education leads to healthier, better adjusted teens and young adults,” he said. “The City would be better advised to put its efforts into promoting what truly works rather than continuing to promote a failed experiment.”

Edward Mechmann, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said he would encourage parents to use an opt-out clause and remove their children from lessons about contraception.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn responded to the city's decision by calling it “one more example of political agendas being forced on children and their families.”

He said it is “offensive to parents” to suggest that the mandate is needed.

“Yet again, our political leaders follow the trend of transferring authority to teachers from parents, and parents continue to lose the right to parent their own children. We will work with everyone, but especially with the parents of our public school children enrolled in our religious education programs, to assist them in asserting their parental rights.”

Zwilling said that parents have “the right and the responsibility to be the first and primary educators of their children.”

“This mandate by the city usurps that role, and allows the public school system to substitute its beliefs and values for those of the parents,” he added.

In the 1990s city school boards had the authority to bar the mention of contraception, abortion, and homosexuality. However, the boards are now under mayoral control.

Donohue said sex education should discourage sex the way other programs discourage smoking.

“We don't tell kids not to smoke and then instruct them on the proper way to inhale,” he added.

Students should learn about how abortion affects women and unborn children, about the greater likelihood of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, and about the link between unwed motherhood and poverty, Donohue advised.

In January, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York decried the city’s “chilling” abortion rate. About 41 percent of all unborn babies in the city are killed in the womb.

Supporters of the sex education program include Vanessa Mercado, the after-school program manager at the Inwood Academy for Leadership.

“Children are exposed to sex in so many forms now that it’s better they get the right information from someone,” she told the New York Times.

However, Lucy Accardo, a mother of four on the Community Education Council for District 24, said sex education is not the proper activity of the schools.

“I don’t agree with it, because I think parents should teach their children at their own discretion,” she said.

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